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Vale Tom Hafey: 1931-2014

Stephen Rielly  May 12, 2014 7:05 PM

Collingwood is mourning the passing of Tom Hafey, a football icon who coached the club in 120 games between 1977 and 1982.

Collingwood is mourning the passing of Tom Hafey, a football icon who coached the club in 120 games between 1977 and 1982.

The Collingwood Football Club has joined the football world in mourning the loss of Tom Hafey, one of the great coaches of the 20th century.

Collingwood President, Eddie McGuire, described Hafey’s passing, at the age of 82, as the felling of a giant of the game.

“It wasn’t simply the incredible success he enjoyed as a coach that stood him apart from so many. It was what he stood for,” McGuire said.

“He lived the life he wanted his players to live. If he could do it, they could do it. He was often referred to as a player’s man, which is true, but I think he was also a club man in the sense that he built not only great teams but great clubs.

“He invariably left behind a stronger football club, a club that knew a lot more about what it took to succeed. He was idiosyncratic, with his t-shirts and cups of tea and all the rest of it – ‘T-shirt Tommy’ – but he picked Collingwood up at its lowest ebb and took it to a remarkable period of sustained success.

“He loved the game and footballers and football followers loved him. He left an indelible mark on the Collingwood Football Club as he did with the hundreds of thousands of people he met through his passion for football.

“Our thoughts are with Tommy’s wife Maureen, their children Rhonda, Karen and Jo, and the extended family.”

After first making his coaching mark by winning four premierships with Richmond, Hafey joined Collingwood at the end of the 1976 season, a time of historic failure for the Magpies which saw the club collect its first wooden spoon.

Under Hafey’s stewardship, almost miraculously Collingwood rose from last to first, with the club finishing on top of the ladder at the end of the 1977 home and away season only to finished second to North Melbourne who reeled in a 27-point three-quarter time deficit to draw the grand final. The Kangaroos won the replay by 27 points. The Magpies played in, but won none of, three grand finals in the following four seasons.

Ray Shaw was Hafey’s captain in 1979 and 1980 and a Copeland Trophy winner, with Billy Picken, in 1978.

With the highest regard, Shaw said Hafey’s gift as a coach was simplicity.

“He kept it simple. Get fit, be hard at the ball and get it down to the forwards as quick as possible,” Shaw recalled.

“It was basic but inspiring. There was never any confusion. You knew what was required and where you stood with Tommy. One of the first memories I have of him is him pushing himself as hard as any of us in the pre-season runs around Studley Park. It was hard not to respect someone like that.

“We got confidence from knowing we were fit, probably fitter than most other teams, and he preached the team over the individual constantly. ‘Use your team-mates’, he would say.

“He was tough, no question about it. But he would ring up on a Friday night and have a chat about things – he knew as players we would have our minds on the game on match day – get a feel for your mood and make you feel like you really mattered. You didn’t want to let him down.”

In all, Hafey coached Collingwood in 138 matches and five grand finals across five and-a-half seasons, with a winning percentage of 65.22. This period of star-crossed prosperity, which ended with his departure from Victoria Park half way through the 1982 campaign, is a rich part of a coaching career which has been lauded as one of the finest the game has ever known.

Tom Hafey's Collingwood Career
Games Coached:
138 (89 wins, 47 losses, 2 draws)
Finals Coached: 18 (9 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw)
Grand Finals: 1977, 1977 Replay, 1979, 1980, 1981